The Evolution of a Modern Day Bowling Ball

bowling balls have been around for over 5000 years and have came in many shapes, sizes, weights and materials

The Evolution Of Bowling Balls Over Time

Bowling is a timeless classic. Bowling has been around since the dawn of time, when people started becoming competitive and had a desire to knock things down with a ball. It was invented in Ancient Egypt over 5,000 years ago as a method for Pharaohs to pass the time.

Bowling balls used in ten-pin bowling usually have three finger holes today, but in the early stages of the game one finger hole and a thumb was all that was used. Bowling balls utilized in five-pins, candlepin bowling, duckpin bowling, and kegel are small enough to be held in the palm of your hand.

This article will discuss how they’ve evolved over time. A ball’s design, weight distribution, surface texture, and other factors all impact its evolution. They all collaborate to ensure that you get the best possible performance on the lanes! Let’s look at each element in detail.

Primitive Bowling Balls

In ancient times, ball makers used whatever was readily available to construct rustic bowling balls. Bowling balls were frequently molded using corn husks and then bound with leather and string in the early days of the sport. The majority of basic bowling balls did not have gripping holes, forcing the bowler to palm the ball during each turn. Archaeologists have also found ancient ceramic bowling balls, which implies that these were rolled along the ground rather than thrown due to their size and weight.

In the 17th Century, the sport of bowling was introduced to America. The common materials used for making ball at this time were wood, metal and animal hide. Balls made from wood were fairly popular among bowlers.

As with most innovations, the demand for a superior ball led to better technology.

The First Standardized Bowling Balls Were Made of Wood

The bowlers of the day discovered that lignum vitae (hardwood) was an excellent material for bowling balls. In addition to larger, regulation balls, smaller bowling balls (4-8+ inches) were utilized. A patent was filed in 1894 demonstrating how bowling balls included a thumb hole and just a single finger hole.

Rubber Bowling Balls Get Introduced Around the Turn of the Century

For decades, bowling balls were made of wood until the Evertrue, the world’s first rubber ball, was developed in 1905. In 1914, the Brunswick Corporation announced that its Mineralite bowling ball was composed of a secret rubber compound. Over the years many companies would try different formulations of rubber materials. Also coloring was added to some bowling balls making them unique from the black rubber bowling balls most everyone was used to. Most rubber bowling balls used a cork material inside of them instead of current day technology. 

Rubber bowling balls would be at the top of their game for about 50 years before a new breakthrough occurred.

Plastic Bowling Balls Revolutionize The Game

Modern bowling balls descend from their polyester or plastic origins, although plastic bowling balls are still widely used by children, newcomers, and as a straight-line spare bowling ball for many.

However, after the plastic bowling ball was adopted by the Professional Bowlers’ Association in the 1970s as the preferred ball for bowlers on tour, trouble arose with regards to its 

reactivity to lane conditions. Because there was not enough friction produced by these balls in comparison to a current bowling lane, serious bowlers complained about their tendency to skid down the lane and lack of back-end action snapping into the pin pocket. There needed to be a suitable coefficient of friction for the ball to react appropriately. To counteract this, some top bowlers experimented with compounds that would soften the ball’s surface.

Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), acetone, and other derivative chemicals were among the substances tested. The usage of chemicals to soak bowling balls resulted in serious health concerns. The PBA and American Bowling Congress eventually set standards for the softness of a bowling ball ending the short lived soaker era.

Urethane Bowling Balls Start The Modern Technology Advancements

In 1980, urethane bowling balls were introduced to the market. This new break through enabled the ball to create more friction than every seen before and increase entry angles into the pocket. New core ideas were introduced and this technology would lay the foundation for modern day bowling balls.

The AMF Angle was the first three-piece urethane bowling ball. The Faball Hammer was the first two-piece urethane bowling ball. In 1981, Ebonite began producing the first urethane cover stock bowling balls for AMF, and sold the rights to them. At that time, Ebonite produced AMF and Ebonite was unconvinced that bowlers would pay the $80.00 price for this novel technology. That ball became known as the AMF Angle, and this one coverstock modification allowed the ball to have a stronger grip on urethane-based natural wood lane surfaces, which altered the bowling game dramatically.

Out of stock
Out of stock

Reactive Resin Bowling Balls Help Create a Scoring Boom in Bowling

Until the early 1990s, urethane was the ball of choice. The X-Calibur, a “reactive resin” ball manufactured by Nu-Line in 1991, is credited with revolutionizing the game. They used the base urethane cover and added chemicals that would open the pours of the urethane and allow the bowling ball to absorb oil at a faster rate. This ball created grip and unheard of performance. Steve Cooper was the company’s president and owner. But in the early days, production suffered, allowing companies like Storm, Brunswick, and Columbia to enter the reactive market by the following summer. The bowling ball wars started here to see who could create the most advanced reactive resin balls with the best weight blocks.

The new reactive urethane coverstock, often known as resin, was utilized with innovative core designs to revolutionize the game. The American Bowling Congress stated the number of perfect games increased by nearly 20% from 14,889 in 1991-92 to 17,654 in 1992-93.

Lightbulb, spherical, and elliptical are examples of core forms. The interior of the ball is filled with little counter-weights that may be inserted separately to vary the center’s weight distribution. Collar or weight blocks may be added to the main core or inner cores may be weighted separately to alter the center’s weight distribution.

The use of computerized design software to create frequent modifications to the core design has been standard practice for bowling ball producers since about 1993. Even for one model of ball, different core designs may be used for various ball weights (one for 12-and 13-pound balls, another for 14, 15 and 16-pound balls).

A company could release a great ball and keep the market for two years back in the day. Nowadays, goods are launched so rapidly and technology evolves at such a rapid rate that you must have fresh designs on hand at all times.

The United States Bowling Congress Create Bowling Ball Specs

The USBC would put regulations on bowling ball specifications. USBC specifications include maximums for weight (16 pounds), diameter (8.500 inches —8.595 inches),surface hardness, surface roughness, hole drilling limitations, side weight, plug limitations, exterior markings, radius of gyration (RG) RG differential and coefficient of friction.

more bowling balls you may like


more bowling articles you may enjoy

2 thoughts on “The Evolution of a Modern Day Bowling Ball

  1. Jesse Casillas says:

    Great article about the Evolution of bowling balls.I set pins in the 50’s and started league bowling in 1965 so I have seen the evolution first hand!! I purchased my first $100 ball when the AMF Angle came out. I am 81yrs old and still bowling in 3 leagues.Thank you to the LORD!!

  2. Mike castaneda says:

    I just got a bowling bal that has Brunswick- Balke- Collender with this on 408 – E3R engraved on it. An it also has 509 Black Beauty

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.